To effectively protect, manage, and leverage infrastructure investments, companies are using M2M and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) technology to keep complex systems running at peak efficiency. While cellular-based transmission may work in high population areas, it can be unpredictable due to congestion and urban canyons. It may even be non-existent in remote locations. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 90% of the world is covered by a mobile cellular network, but what happens when you are working in that other 10%?
For businesses with assets that move, are situated outside of cellular or network service ranges or for those that require uninterrupted communication for security purposes, cellular networks do not provide the mandatory constant and reliable connectivity.
Deploying any system to remotely monitor mobile and fixed equipment provides many benefits. Management knows immediately when a piece of machinery requires attention rather than finding out too late during the next scheduled site visit. Timely information about asset health and behavior combined with software applications that organize data and implement work flows, save time and streamline processes that previously required paperwork and manual decision-making. According to an Aberdeen Report, the assistance of automation to support key field service processes and workflows has enabled companies to shave 43 minutes of time spent on administrative tasks and paperwork for their service technicians per day.
When monitoring assets remotely, managers can see the status of equipment from an office computer. This reduces the need to send a technician to check on the status of the equipment on site. Some monitoring solutions also include the ability to send commands to the equipment “over-the-air”, enabling changes to be made from a central location without sending a technician. According to another Aberdeen report, it costs approximately $220 to deploy a truck for service. If a company can fix the problem remotely the first time it could save at least $220 on just one piece of equipment.
Remote monitoring also provides detailed information on the way equipment is used. Whether or not machinery is operated safely and in good condition is vital information needed to prevent accidents, improve operator behavior, schedule maintenance and ensure warranty compliance.
Within the last 20 years satellite technology has gone from being a very expensive and unpredictable choice to an available, dependable and cost effective solution. Before, typical satellite airtime plans averaged in the range of $100/per month/per terminal (for broadband systems). Driven by competition and increased service availability over the last few years, satellite airtime costs have become very competitive, especially when roaming across numerous cell provider networks. Typically, users do not pay for airtime as a standalone, but rather as a bundled service with an application. Satellite applications, for instance, are commonplace for substation automation, distribution automation, automated metering and mobile workforce.
The ability to compensate for areas where there is either no or poor terrestrial or cellular coverage is one of the key value propositions of satellite. SCADA monitoring systems that require the report of events such as problem notification, the transmission of trending information or the ability to control equipment, packet data satellite terminals can be a cost effective system to purchase, install and operate without compromising the visibility between headquarters and remote assets.
For areas where high-bandwidth networks, like GPRS, are not available or unreliable, packet data satellite terminals can be used to provide remote monitoring and control of SCADA systems. Figure 1 shows an example of the SCADA architecture when using packet data satellite terminals.
Putting Satellite Technology to the Test
Explaining the benefits never paint the picture as well as real life examples. A few applications that confirm clear return on investments include:
Typical applications that would benefit from using this satellite communications architecture include:
Today's satellite networks have advanced to become enterprise-class platforms that provide connectivity anywhere on the globe. Satellite technology is a cost-effective and secure solution to maximize SCADA and M2M systems.
Jenn Markey is the Product Management Director for SkyWave, a global provider of wireless data communications for the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) market. Jenn has more than twenty years of global technology marketing and product management expertise and holds a Master of Business Administration from York University. Jenn can be reached at email@example.com.